A teenager died at a house party after experimenting for the first time with a dangerous drug available legally on the internet, friends said yesterday.
The body of Ben Walters, 18, was found sprawled beside a 28-year-old woman who is now fighting for her life in hospital.
Both are understood to have taken mephedrone, which is sold as a fertiliser but produces a similar euphoric high to ecstasy if ingested.
The drug, which can be bought for as little as £4 a gram and comes in powder, tablet, crystal or liquid form, was first used on the club scene in 2007 and has nicknames including 'meow meow', 'drone' and 'bubble'.
Paramedics and police were called to a £175,000 first floor flat in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, at 6pm on Tuesday and discovered Ben had already died.
The women, who is understood to be a friend, was rushed to Luton and Dunstable Hospital where she remained last night.
Torri Ivers, 16, a college friend of Ben's, warned the public needed to be told about the dangers of mephedrone.
'Nobody thinks it's dangerous because it's legal. It's a substitute for heroin but you can get it over the internet,' she said.
'You can buy it in college because it's cheap and nobody realises how bad it is until something happens. Nobody is taught enough about them.
'It was the first time Ben had ever taken drugs. He had a lot going for him and got good grades.
'I can't emphasise enough how much of a lovely, beautiful person he was. It's not fair.'
Ben was studying drama at Amersham and Wycombe College and hoped to go Leeds University to do a media studies course.
Restaurant owner Alan Turtill, 33, who lives beside the modern two-storey red-brick block of 16 apartments where the teenager died, said residents had complained about loud parties in the flat and sent an email to the landlord in November.
He added: 'There was noise coming from there at least once or twice a week on a regular basis, not just on the weekend.
'There were rumours of drugs. I work late nights but I would see young people hanging around there at night time.
'They were always playing loud dance music until three or four in the morning.'
Ben's devastated friends posted emotional tributes on social networking site Facebook today.
Alecia Blair wrote: 'It was an absolute pleasure to know you.
'You were truly an amazing character and you will be thoroughly missed. Lots of love Ben. You were pure rock'n'roll.'
Dominique Leonard said: 'Nobody had had enough of you just yet!'
Benjamin's parents, Carol and Leon Walters, were too upset to comment at their home in Berkhamsted today.
Hertfordshire Police have ruled out any suggestion of a double suicide attempt or violent attack and said they were waiting for the results of a post-mortem examination and toxicology report.
A spokeswoman added: 'Police were called following concerns for the welfare of two people in the property.
'When officers arrived at the scene they discovered that an 18-year-old man had sadly died and a 28-year-old woman had been taken ill.
'The man and woman are believed to be known to each other.
'The woman was taken to Luton and Dunstable hospital where she remains in a critical but stable condition.'
A 17-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of possessing illegal drugs.
A spokeswoman added: 'They are currently in police custody awaiting interview.'
A spokeswoman for Amerhsam and Wycombe College said: 'We offer our sincere condolences to the student's family.'
Mephedrone is legal providing it is not processed or marketed for human consumption.
When used as a party drug the substance is generally taken orally. Side-effects including rapid heartbeat, mood swings and a purple discolouration of the skin, which can last for several weeks.
In November it was linked the death of 14-year-old Gabrielle Wood, from Worthing, West Sussex, although a post mortem gave the official cause of death as cardiac arrest and bronchopneumonia.
The Home Office said tests on Gabrielle Wood had revealed several substances in her body, including mephedrone.
A spokeswoman added: 'We have commissioned the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to look at the harms and availability of 'legal highs'.
'They are currently looking at mephedrone, and related compounds, and their advice will inform our response.'
Last month the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the official government adviser on illicit substances, wrote to Home Secretary Alan Johnson about mephedrone and other 'legal highs'.
It warned the potential harms of such drugs were still unknown but they 'could have serious public health implications'.
The council is currently researching mephedrone's effects and is expected to advise Mr Johnson to make it illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
By Andrew Levy
January 21, 2010
Teenager dies after experimenting with legal drug meow meow